Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.
That said, there are certain parenting goals – and therefore, strategies – than can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, or the bond between a parent and a child that is wholesome and, well, secure, offers an advantage to a person by helping them handle stress, from everyday garden variety to major adversity, easier. Essentially, secure attachment lends a good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also physical health, and just plain overall well-being.
Parents who are passionate enough about a certain approach to parenting to try to spread the message, either through advocacy or through parent education, tend to come from two schools of thought: They may be those who found a certain approach to parenting to work well for them and their family, and want to share the good news, so to speak; or they may be those who believe that their approach to parenting, which obviously worked well for them and their family, is the one right way for all parents and children, and who then pass judgment on families who are different than they are. Most parents, though, I believe, I hope, understand that all families are different and that every parent is just doing what works best for them with what knowledge they have at the time and that sometimes we are all just trying to keep our heads above water and that, other times, we have wonderful moments of clarity and childrearing ease.
It is true that I practice Attachment Parenting, but do not see that any formula to parenting – even the particular parenting choices I use – to be “the” way to parent. I breastfeed, but I do not think that if a child was not breastfed, that that child was neglected. I use positive discipline, but I do not think that if a child is spanked, that that child is abused necessarily. I use daycare sparingly, but I do not think that parents who use daycare regularly are shirking their responsibility as parents. I see us as all on the same side: We’re all trying to do the best we can with what we got. And every family is different. Certainly, I cannot judge anyone unless I have literally walked in their shoes.
Yet, my views of inclusive parenting certainly don’t mean anyone shares this idea. I have encountered both friends and family as well as strangers trying to persuade me that my parenting approach is wrong with arguments that, during the conversation, increasingly “reach the realm of the ridiculous,” as I like to call it. One woman, in trying to convince me that I was holding my baby too much, told me that most infant injuries come when the caregiver holding the baby falls down. Somehow, I doubt this to be true. Could be the lack of statistics or reference.
In another example, when I revealed that my dates with my husband happen after the kids go to bed, my banker told me that having a date outside the house was a requirement for a healthy marriage. When I said that we don’t go anywhere anyway, because we try to be frugal plus I have so many food allergies that there is literally nowhere I can eat, and that our nightly date in-home during which we eat dessert or have a glass of wine, watch a movie, play a game, take walks, or just talk, seems to be working better for us than trying to plan a weekly date to do the same, she suggested that we bring the kids to her house so we can, as she phrased it, “go back home and you two can just sit there looking at each other,” because apparently having a date is only a date, even if at home, if the kids are elsewhere. And, no, she wasn’t kidding or sarcastic – she seemed genuinely interested in arranging this for me.
These comments usually leave me chuckling, though sometimes a bit annoyed if I’ve had one of those days where things just didn’t seem to be working in my favor. But I do try to take some time to consider the other person’s point of view. And it always comes down to a completely different family situation, and a corresponding philosophy. The “don’t hold your baby too much” lady – she is of an older generation where cry-it-out sleep training and scheduled infant feedings were the norm, and so was the old misguided adage that holding a baby too much would spoil it. That’s how she parented; that’s how everyone probably parented in her generation. And now, decades later, even as times have changed and parenting trends have changed and more research reveals what parenting strategies work or don’t work, her experience is in those parenting practices that she used.
The “date nights” woman – she works full time at the bank and puts her kids in daycare, and her husband works full time and then goes to school part time in the evenings, and they just don’t plain see each other as much as my husband and I do. So, planning a weekly date night is really important for her and her husband, because there is so much competing for both of their attentions, including their children. Both examples are completely opposite of how I work and how my family works. My parenting ideas wouldn’t necessarily work for them, and theirs don’t work for me.
It’d be wonderful to finally put the “Mommy wars” to rest, but it is human nature that we feel so vulnerable in this area of our lives – as parents – and therefore, so easily judged and able to so easily judge others, as we try to rectify in our minds that we are, indeed, doing this whole childrearing thing the right way. You probably are doing it the right way, for you and your child, but so is the mother down the street who is doing everything opposite of you. We have to remember to expand our minds, to understand that judging is a part of who we are naturally, but that we can overcome it by being consciously tolerant of differences.
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Good Parenting Comes in Many Styles (November 15, 2012)
Last reviewed: 14 Nov 2012